High Rock Spring

Provenance: Dave Merker Collection

Our museum example with a prominently embossed rock represents a very rare quart High Rock Spring bottle. It appears black but with a bright light looking down in the bottle corner, it is actually a very dark amber. Hich Rock Spring rose from a little mound of stone, three or four feet tall, which appeared like a miniature volcano, except that sparkling water instead of melted lava flowed from its little crater.

The rock pictorial embossing is in very high relief when compared to other more common High Rock Spring bottles. It has an applied mouth, a smooth base, and has no base markings. The bottle would have been blown in a two-piece hinge mold. The embossed copy, HIGH ROCK SPRING is arched over a prominent centered rock in strong bas-relief. SARATOGA N.Y., in a straight line, anchors the rock and arched copy. There is no word-space between HIGH and ROCK. The bottles were probably made at Congressville Glass Works. See an example of a pint High Rock Spring from the Dave Merker Collection.

High Rock Examples

There are at least three (3) primary name and appearance variants of the High Rock bottles. Secondary variations involve a ‘1767’ date and an embossed ‘C & W.’ All these High Rock bottles were made from the very early 1860s to the mid-1870s and have been put in a suggested order below.

First Variant

[see above] Our first example is the embossed ‘HIGHROCK SPRING (embossed rock) SARATOGA N.Y.’ bottle. Actually, all of the “High Rock” bottles have the embossed ‘SARATOGA N.Y.’ as the baseline text. This is our museum specimen. They were the earliest made from a group of embossed “High Rock” bottles. These bottles can be found in dark amber pints and quarts, but rarely emerald green as many of the same-period Congress Spring bottles.

Second Variant

[see above] The embossed ‘HIGH ROCK CONGRESS SPRING 1767’ (embossed rock) ‘C & W SARATOGA N.Y.’ bottle is the second primary variant. They may have come next and were usually amber but can be found in shades of olive. The 1767 date indicates the year Sir Wm. Johnson was brought to the spring on a litter by his Indian friends seeking a cure. The date can be found embossed over the rock. “C & W” stands for “Clarke & White” who were early proprietors of the brand and spring. The amber bottles were blown at the Stoddard Glass Works.

The High Rock Congress Spring Company was formed into a stock company in 1866 when Mssrs. Ainsworth & McCaffrey yielded to a group of capitalists from Saratoga Springs and New York. The corporation had a fixed capital of $500,000. They most likely ordered many bottles (above and below examples) with this HIGH ROCK CONGRESS SPRING name embossed on the front. Unfortunately, the company failed not long after and the spring was sold at auction for $16,000.

[see above] There are similar embossed ‘HIGH ROCK CONGRESS SPRING’ (embossed rock) ‘C & W SARATOGA N.Y.’ bottles without the date which are probably still associated with the 1867 Centennial. These bottles exist in a wide range of colors, not typical of Congressville, and were possibly made at Lyndeboro Glass Company in New Hampshire.

Third Variant

[see above and below] The third primary variant is embossed ‘SARATOGA HIGH ROCK SPRING’ (embossed rock) and ‘SARATOGA N.Y.’ There are secondary variations involving the embossed 1767 date and embossed ‘C & W.’

Legal Issues

In 1867, There were some legal issues with Congress & Empire Spring Co. vs High Rock Congress Spring Co. relating to the word “CONGRESS” in the “High Rock” name. It is possible that the last primary variant embossed ‘SARATOGA HIGH ROCK SPRING’ (embossed rock) is a result of the court case when new management was separated out to form a new company overseeing High Rock Spring. Note that the embossed word ‘CONGRESS’ has been removed. There are also a few bottles that exist where ‘CONGRESS’ has been obliterated on the bottle with an application of sand and iron graphite. See a portion of the court documents below.

The manner in which successive proprietors of said spring had put up its waters, the bottling, corking, marking, and labeling, is then set forth, and it is averred that it had been customary for each proprietor to repurchase bottles emptied, and in that way use bottles with the proprietary marks of his predecessors. It was then alleged that the defendant had recently commenced selling medicinal water, intended to resemble “Congress Water,” under the name of “High Rock Congress Water;” that it used bottles of the same general form, with marks upon the cases and boxes resembling those used by the plaintiff, and that it did this to deceive the public, and to induce the belief that the water it sold was the water of “Congress Spring,” and to sell it as “Congress Water.”

Judgment was demanded that the defendant, etc., be restrained from using the name “High Rock Congress Spring Company,” or any name containing “Congress Spring Company,” in the business of putting up mineral water, and from using or putting upon any bottles, corks, boxes, or packages, etc., the words, “Congress Water,” or “Congress Spring Water,” either alone or in connection with other words, etc.

History of High Rock Spring

To look at a period description of High Rock Spring we look to the publication, Saratoga and How to See It, by R. F. Dearborn in 1873.

The High Rock is the oldest in point of discovery of the Saratoga Springs. As early as 1767, Sir Wm. Johnson was brought to it on a litter by his Indian friends. It is noted for the most remarkable natural curiosity of the vicinity, certainly. The following interesting description of this rock is by Prof. Chandler, “The spring rises in a little mound of stone, three or four feet high, which appears like a miniature volcano, except that sparkling water instead of melted lava flows from its little crater.”

When Sir William Johnson visited the spring, and in fact until quite recently, the water did not overflow the mound but came to within a few inches of the summit; some other hidden outlet permitting its escape. The Indians had a tradition, however, which was undoubtedly true, that the water formerly flowed over the rim of the opening. A few years ago (1866) the property changed hands, and the new owners convinced that by stopping the lateral outlet they could cause the water to issue again from the mouth of the rock, employed a number of men to undermine the mound, and with a powerful hoisting derrick to lift it off and set it one side, that the spring might be explored.

“If you will examine the cut which presents a vertical section of the spring, you will be able to follow me as I tell you what they found. “Just below the mound were found four logs, two of which rested upon the other, two at right angles, forming a curb. Under the logs were bundles of twigs resting upon the dark-brown or black soil of a previous swamp.” Evidently, some ancient seekers after health had found the spring in the swamp, and to make it more convenient to secure the water had piled brush around it and then laid down the logs as a curb. But you inquire, how came the rock, which weighed several tons, above the logs? The rock was formed by the water. It is composed of tufa, carbonate of lime, and was formed in the same manner as stalactites and stalagmites are formed. As the water flowed over the logs, the evaporation of a portion of the carbonic acid gas caused the separation of an equivalent quantity of insoluble carbonate of lime, which, layer by layer, built up the mound. A fragment of the rock which I possess contains leaves, twigs, hazelnuts, and snail shells, which, falling from time to time upon it, were incrusted and finally imprisoned in the stony mass.

Ownership of High Rock Spring

To look at a history of ownership of High Rock Spring we look to the publication, History of Saratoga County, New York by Nathaniel Bartlett Sylvester, 1878

On Friday, Feb. 22, 1771, the patent of Kayaderosseras was partitioned by ballot, and lot No. 12 of the sixteenth general allotment – on which lot the High Rock spring is situated – by such balloting came into possession of the heirs of Rip Van Dam, who had died in 1745, pending the controversy with the Indians in regard to the patent. They were the first individuals who exercised any possessory jurisdiction over this spring.

Soon after, Rip Van Dam’s executors sold the same to Isaac Low, Jacob Walton, and Anthony Van Dam. Low was attainted for treason by the Legislature of New York, Oct. 1, 1779, and Henry Livingston, upon the sale of Low’s portion of the lot, purchased the same for himself and several of his brothers. The property was again divided in 1793. At this time it was held by Henry Walton, Henry Livingston, and Anthony Van Dam. Walton then purchased Van Dam’s portion of the property, and of the part of lot twelve lying to the north of Congress spring Judge Walton became the sole owner.

The High Rock remained the property of the Walton heirs until the year 1826, when Mr. John H. White, a stepson of Dr. Clarke, on behalf of Mrs. Clarke and the heirs, purchased of the executors of Henry Walton the remaining portion of the High Rock, and they thus became possessed of the entire property. In 1864, William B. White, who succeeded Dr. Clarke in the control and management of the Congress spring, died, and soon after it passed into other hands, and the necessity for the longer retention of this, to them entirely unproductive property, ceased to exist.

In 1865, Messrs. Ainsworth and McCaffrey became the owners of this prodigy of nature, and soon after commenced a series of improvements. After considerable labor and trial that purpose was accomplished, and water welled up through the orifice and overflowed the rock, as now seen by the visitors at this spring. After the improvements were finished, On the 23d day of August, a celebration was had at the rock. A large meeting assembled over which the venerable Chancellor Walworth presided, which was addressed by the chancellor and William L. Stone.

Primary Image: High Rock Spring bottles imaged on location by the FOHBC Virtual Museum midwest studio led by Alan DeMaison.

Support: Donald Tucker, author of Collector’s Guide to the Saratoga Type Mineral Water Bottles.

Support Image: Auction Lot 139: “Saratoga High Rock Spring / 1767 / (Rock) / C & W / Saratoga N Y” Mineral Water Bottle, America, 1860-1880. Cylindrical, dark emerald green, applied sloping collared mouth with ring – smooth base, pint; (unusual manufacturer’s tooling marks on each side of the embossing at the mold seams, light exterior high point wear). T #S-38B Attractive bold embossing. Beautiful rich color. Listed as scarce to rare. – Norman C. Heckler & Company

Support Image: Auction Lot 32: “Highrock Congress Spring / (Rock) / C & W / Saratoga.N.Y.” Mineral Water Bottle, America, 1860-1880. Cylindrical, brilliant yellowish olive green, applied sloping collared mouth with ring – smooth base, quart; (two “blobs” of glass have adhered to the exterior of the bottle). T #S-37A Listed as scarce. Strong embossing. Fine condition. – Norman C. Heckler & Company

Support Image:  Lot of Three “Highrock Congress Spring / C&W / Saratoga N.Y.” Mineral Water Bottles, America, 1860-1870. Cylindrical, emerald green, yellowish amber, medium yellow olive, applied sloping collared mouths with rings – smooth bases, pints; (minor manufacturer’s roughness on lower mouth ring of amber example). T #S-37B Three different and beautiful colors. Fine condition. – Norman C. Heckler & Company

Join: The Saratoga type Bottle Collectors Society. Request information at jullman@nycap.rr.com

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